Friday, October 30, 2009

A New Trick - Obedience Training

Sit, roll over, fetch - it's a lot to remember for a dog with a brain the size of a golf ball. Just think what dogs would be like if they were as smart as - well you.

The Christians that read my blogs are like the rest of the church, diverse. My readership embodies everything from Charismatics to Catholics, and lots in between. There are those that have some training and those that don't. If it was an intellectual game, some would win, and some would lose. Thank God it's not.

The good news is the Good News. The Gospel is fit for each one of us, and the trick is contained in one word: obedience.

There are a bajillion people running around asking WWJD? He'd be obedient - perfectly obedient. He would have cleaned his room when asked and as a reward, I guess He'd get to use the family donkey. He would have given His tithe, been honest on his time-papyrus at the carpentry shop, and given up His favorite hitching post in downtown to a crippled man - well, if He didn't heal him and send him off praising God.

Jesus said, "I do what I see the Father doing." How about you?

In America it is very easy to get caught up in the lifestyle. Think about it. In the time of Jesus, they didn't have toilet paper, cell phones or malls. There were no cars, no electric heat, or grocery stores. That is a lot of life to manage with manual tasks. Yet, Jesus never sinned, and was always obedient in spite of the hard work just living life was. Leave it to us to have a flat tire in the rain, a power outage or some other inconvenience. God forbid the Internet goes down or we lose our cell phone. Don't those things make you annoyed? I confess, they can make me crazy some days.

And for those of you that get your political panties in a bundle, Jesus lived under some ruthless people - like the ones that crucified Him. And He didn't sin.

Keeping up with life in America and some other places leaves the average Christian little time for church services, reading the word, meaningful fellowship or prayer. All worthwhile activities.

Lots of Christians talk about balance - but as usual - the word is not in the Bible. How can you be obedient to a principal that is not biblical? We talk about priorities and one can make an exigetic case for them. Here they are if you don't have them memorized.

- God
- Spouse
- Family
- Work
- Ministry
- Free Time

God, however; is looking for obedience, not legalism or conformity to a set of values.

Have you ever noticed how helpful a kid is a couple days before their birthday? When there is the promise of a reward, it is a lot easier to be obedient -- but God wants us to be obedient unto death, not unto rewards.

And when God speaks - unless He says in a week - do it now. Delayed obedience is also disobedience.

Think about it. God's balance for your life could be serving Him full-time and not punching the clock. It could be dropping everything and doing a family mission. It could be working 4 "10's" so that you have time with your family, or to volunteer somewhere.

Can you see Him, what's He doing?

In my last blog I talked about the difference between the soul and the spirit. Hearing God is essential to being obedient! If we can't see what the Father is doing, then how the heck are we going to do it? This is why WWJD is a basically for folks that want to put a label on good. But Jesus didn't come to make bad people good, He came to make dead people live. He is not looking for people to do the "right" thing or the "good" thing. He is looking for folks to do His thing!

Jesus said that He came to bring life, and bring it abundantly. Is life full of blessings? It should be. But as Americans we can easily get into the mind-set that a house, a spouse, a 401k, two cars and 2.3 kids is the blessing goal. When we reach it, we'll be blessed.

The reality is that some times the "American Dream" can be the very thing that keeps us from doing the will of God.

We can't always trust our emotions, we need to trust God as He sends messages to our spirit. The truth is that we can't even trust the word of God apart from the Holy Spirit that teaches us. That is why it is essential to hear His voice!

I challenge you to say "You know what God, I need to hear your voice, I need to do your will, and I need your word to be alive. Not so I am smart about Bible stuff, but so that I can know you and see what you are doing. I'd like to be obedient, whatever the cost. Amen"

This little prayer might just be the breakthrough you are looking for -- releasing gifting, ministries, and causing us to learn a new trick or two. Even a dog can fetch.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Root of the Problem

I was talking to a few friends, coworkers, and even my wife this past week. Each discussion about a current issue seemed to go a little sideways. Here is what I mean. I was talking about immigration, and a friend stated the problem was that illegal aliens are able to show up in the local Emergency Room (or other places) and get care at the expense of working Americans. The facts are that someone is here breaking a law, and yet, we need to have compassion and give life saving medical treatment that they cannot afford.

It certainly is a quandary - an ethical dilemma, and there is no clear cut Bible verse that we can stand on without debate which allows us to know what exactly what to do. There isn't and don't gag me by saying, "What would Jesus do?" He would have healed them supernaturally, free of charge.

As I thought about this issue and others like it - beyond cable news and the rhetoric of Washington- what I discovered is that the situation at hand was a symptom of a deeper problem. In this particular instance, it due to a number of factors.

1) We don't have an established "line" to get into. Every foreigner that hopes to come the US doesn't have any idea where the line is exactly, how long it is, and what type of treatment they will received in moving towards the coveted Green Card. That a huge part of the problem.

2) As a country, we have not decided morally [ethically, biblically] what to do about health care. We just have opinions about it - especially about giving it to lazy folks; unwilling to work, and those with severe sicknesses that even the best insurance doesn't cover. We haven't decided, as a country why or why not to provide universal health care. We are already into "how" to do it.

One side says you can't legislate morality, and I think they are wrong - yet it seems they are right.

The root issue in health care is moral - the rest of the debate is about money and power - what else is new? The symptoms of the problem are those that feel entitled to having something for nothing on one side, and those that are greedy in the industry on the other along with working Americans that do not want to shoulder the bill. Neither position addresses the problem. And part of the reason health care is so expensive is the ludicrous malpractice suits that give millions and millions of dollars- awards without end to those that may have truly suffered. (That's my opinion.)

It's a moral issue at the root and no amount of debate is going to make it just work out until we decide the moral issue. But we won't, and therefore it won't get solved satisfactorily.

For a less controversial issue let's look at oil prices now that they have receded for the time being. We could drill in ANWR and hopefully get enough oil to lower prices for a few years. Higher prices, again, are a symptom of a much bigger problem, not a root cause. The root cause is we have had poor energy policies for many decades and they have caught up with us. Drilling is a temporary fix. Converting to renewable energy source is a solution. And it solves the foreign oil issue - which personally makes me feel safer here in the US. Also, my opinion.

When we look at the many issues facing us personally, our regions and even the world, there are root causes. If we want to solve things, we must look at root causes, not the symptoms. Sure we have complex problems, but fixing symptoms is never a long term solution. For example: Money doesn't solve spending problems - most folks that win the lottery end blowing it all and resorting to the same life style they had before they won. Interesting.

Certainly there a myriad of other social and political issues that don't fit into a specific biblical paradigm - ones for which a chapter and verse do not point to a direct solution. These require thought and most of all godly wisdom - wisdom that seems to be in short supply.

So what's bugging you?

Finances, health, relationships, kids, work -- things aren't going well at church - what? God wants to get at the root of these issues in our lives and provide a solution. He wants to build a foundation so that the choices we make in the future have something foundational to sit atop of.

There are many stories in the Bible of folks that didn't get it - Saul is an example. Of course there are others that finally did. Peter is a good example of finally lining up with the God's will, and making tremendous strides for the Kingdom. It cost him everything.

Hebrews 4:12 For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart. Amplified Bible

Before you stop reading - this is not a lesson on reading your Bible. You're an adult now, just do it.

Consider Hebrews 4:12 for a moment. It points out a couple of important things about how we humans are put together.

1) The word divides the soul and the spirit. That means that what you feel, and think could be wrong according to the spirit which God controls. Hopefully the new man is released in us (the Spirit), and God is controlling the soulish realm of our thoughts, will and emotions. Of course we all periodically, and sometimes monumentally, fail at this because of our sin nature.

2) It points out how closely related the soul and spirit are - as close as bone (joints) is to the marrow. If you are not familiar with marrow, the only way to separate it from the bone is to scrape it! The two are virtually one. Now that's close.

What does that mean for you and me? It means that our feelings could get in the way of our spirit - the Spirit that God puts in us. We just might miss God. It means that my opinions about health care and the price of oil could be wrong. The good news is that when we immerse ourselves in Gods' word - we have a much better chance of getting it right.

I know a fellow in the church. He's very intelligent and has an amazing entrepreneurial spirit. This guy can think up a viable business in a matter of hours - one that has true potential for making a profit. He can organize people around the idea and motivate them to give it their all. So, why is this guy not "successful" and not a millionaire? Because business, like the kingdom of God, requires a foundation and generally functions by a set of rules or "best practices." Business requires a blend of knowledge, gifting, timing and godly wisdom.

As a Christian, solving problems, personal, corporate or regional (and not creating them) requires a blend of knowledge, gifting, timing and godly wisdom. Amen?

Here are some biblical principals that might help you get to the root causes for some of your issues. You can look them up, they're in there.

How do we get to the root of relationship issues, we learn how to love. We ask God to revel that root of bitterness. We learn forgiveness, sacrifice and service.

How about divorce? We get healing for the "deal breakers" addictions, abuse and infidelity. Jesus said that hardness of heart was the problem - not getting a new spouse.

God has a plan for finances that honestly, is contrary to the way we live in so many places. It starts with not borrowing. Wow, not even $20 from your parents.

As you can, the Bible is pretty clear about the root of many of our woes - and the remedy! But problem solving is not an intellectual endeavor, nor is it a throw it up in the air and let God figure out one either. We must use the Spirit that God has given us to control our soul-- to allow it to filter our thoughts from His. We need to let Him decide if what we are feeling is truly His will, or a way for us to rationalize our own will.

Church, we need to hear God on all issues. When someone says, "I think" - they could be in trouble. Of course when some says. "the Lord said," I hope they're really listening, for if they are, it will bear fruit.

I could write a book on solving problems - but the Bible is already written.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Kingdom Bloggers Goes Live

It is always exciting to to be a Christian. You may not always know what God is up to, but when you are listening, and hanging out with God's people, things do happen!

For a almost a year, I have been an online friend with the author of Woe Is Me and more recently the author of Tony C Today. These two guys have caused me to think, to pray and to be challenged in the things that I hold close. And they enjoy my sarcasm (to tear flesh). Together we have banded together in Jesus' name to write another blog focusing on the Kingdom of God.

This week it's testimonies, and I believe we are going to talk about answered prayer next -- who knows where it will go from there.

So check us out at www.kingdombloggers.com .

Some may ask why 3 guys that already have blogs joined to make one another? Good question. One night I had a dream about it - and then pretty much forgot about it until Dave called me. In the course of our conversation, he brought up the fact that we should do something together. Interesting. We thought that it would be an example of the body working together.

So here we go, both feet firmly planted in thin air-- holding on the promise we have a witness too.

Enjoy.

And be sure, you can enjoy more of the same smart alec rants on Christian and political topics here - just like before.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

God Grant Me the Serenity - Some Things Change

There in a kitchen, one decorated with copper-tone appliances - the refrigerator adorned with pictures of my nieces, an unfinished shopping list, a calender, magnets; one with the Serenity Prayer, along with mementos from meaningful events in my mother's life; all lit by a simple incandescent ceiling light, I stood.

Like the opening scene from an episode of CSI, I waited for the headlights of my friend's car to disappear from the driveway. As the high-beams cascaded across the faux maple cabinets, I was finally alone.

In an rush of emotion like a freight train - an orgasm of excitement, rationalization, denial and pain, I grabbed the copper handle and opened the door to the liquor cabinet. My favorite, vodka, gone! The rum, watered down to nearly nothing from maintaining the level to the pencil mark -- and there -- a bottle of Cutty Sark Scotch; green glass glistening in the shapely curve just above the schooner clad yellow label.

In the midst of it all, my only thought: "Isn't this the same stuff that made me sick one New Year's eve?" Sure, a sane person would be thinking, "how much damage has demon alcohol caused you and your family already?" After all, your mother is out at an Al-Anon convention at this very moment. Wasn't it on this very spot, right here on the kitchen floor, that your dad passed out and you thought he was dead?

No, the insanity of it all, was myopic focus on the much awaited, yet unpredictable and magical effects of John Barleycorn - regardless of the consequences. Won't it be great to fall off to sleep and forget that you're alone, the bills aren't paid, and your "friends" are off somewhere else because you are out of drugs?

The trusted warmth, soon to blot out clamor of anxiety, was calling my name.

I unscrewed the metal cap and filled a drinking glass as the ice cubes crackled; rising just above the rim. The amber liquid so romantic, so cunning, so baffling... I didn't know what day it was then, but I do now: October 25th, 1980.

I took a gulp as the ice cubes crashed into my upper lip -- and then another and another. In between cigarettes I continued to refilled the cheap green glass, one with wrinkles on it like a Charpee puppy. As I stood at the counter I remembered that my father used to drink his Hull's Export beer from 16 ounce bar bottles here too.

It could have been like any other day in the life of an alcoholic, but because of grace, it was the last. The intended effect never took hold, and I lay awake all night consumed with what a mess I was making of my life. Some time the next morning I had a thought in between cravings for a refill: I had turned out just like my father.

Some years earlier I found God, but it was going to take some real grace to get me off alcohol. Even in the midst of the fog, the Holy Spirit was at work. You can read about that HERE.

I was 22, angry, depressed, and finally determined to break the habit. Some of my closest friends didn't know what I was going through, and I was far too ashamed to tell them. It took me a few weeks to clear up enough to pray, "God, I don't want to be like my father. Please help me to stay clean and sober." Certainly I have said that prayer and many like it since then, but this was the first real prayer that God answered for me.

I had a lot of hope and help from others - and AA made a huge difference. Thanks, Dennis, Kent, Eddie, and others like you who reached out to me in those early days. I am grateful for others who walked the road before me, and for those that have invested in my life since.

I received a gift that opened the doors to breaking a family curse, to salvation and many other amazing things. In meetings I was told to do it "One Day at a Time" - you know, as Jesus said, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." We said the Lord's prayer, also a quote of Jesus. Those things are still comforting me today in many different circumstances.

Without alcohol or drugs -- simply by the grace of God, I have endured many things that this life has thrown at me- and some from the devil too. Yet, God has worked all things for the good (Romans 8:28) - even my mistakes.

I have carried my "24 hour" chip which is posted at the top of this blog. On it is a condensed version of the following prayer. Interestingly - it was one of the messages on the door of the refrigerator that miraculous day in 1980 - 29 years ago - this very same evening.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen. --Reinhold Niebuhr

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How Many Calls Do You Receive From ...

I loved Jerry Sienfeld's response to the persistent telemarketer. I took the last month to do another survey on the behavior of church people and here are the results. But first a little bit of Jerry to set the tone.

How many folks from church call you?
42% said 0
38% said 3
4% said 4-6
14% said 7-10

Nearly half of the respondents, OK, let's not exaggerate 42% - that's 42 in a congregation of 100 or 84 in a congregation of 200, or 420 in a congregation of 1000 -- and for those of you at a mega-church, that's 2,100 out of 5,000 who said zero! Zero people call them. Think about it?!? Maybe I should say think about it hard. If we are going to be known by our love, and we can't even pick up the phone - well, I report you decide.

Did you know that the Vineyard Christian Fellowship did a study about 10 years ago? They found that a newcomer - Christian or otherwise -- needs to make six to seven meaningful friendships in order for them to stay at a church and become a productive disciple. That's six or seven. You can do the math. That would mean having regular contact with six or seven other members of the church, on a regular enough basis, to call the friendship meaningful. And truthfully, the word meaningful probably is the Miller Lite version of a Biblical, accountable relationship. I'm just sayin'.

That's nearly 80%, according to my unscientific pole, who probably won't make it to becoming a productive disciple. I find that sad. As the "keepers of the light," I'd say it is pretty dim on the friendship front. I will admit that calling is not the only way to make a friend, or sustain a friendship. We do have even more impersonal ways to communicate, email, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. You can get a half dozen 140 character updates, complete with emoticons every day...well if you're lucky.

How do you suppose this friend gap happened? I'd like to point a few fingers -- but I won't. It might just a be a good time to take your own inventory - check your cell phone records if you need a reality check, but ask yourself, how good a friend am I?

I have a personal rule that I try to abide by. That is that if I am not willing to be part of the solution, I don't complain about whatever it is that is not getting done. And it sure helps me to avoid being a hypocrite. You might be thinking - I could call a few folks, or I hate the phone, or no one calls me, why should I try? Those are all reasonable thoughts. Maybe you don't need, or want, any friends from church that know your business. I dunno.

Instead of offering the obvious solution, I'd like to go way past making a few calls a week. Let's start here:

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

There are good works that we can do -- ones that God has already prepared for us. If He knew us before we were born, than knowing what He'd like us to do is also in His heart. The problem with just getting on the phone and calling a few folks is that we need to be prepared to open up, share our lives and burdens, listen; well at least half the time, and look for God to make some things happen.

If you really want to be a friend in the biblical sense-- check out this BLOG.

As you can see, you need to prepare yourself to be a friend. It is the work of God's grace in us, part of the sanctification that comes with salvation and the overflow of love as Jesus pours out in our hearts that which is witnessed to by Holy Spirit himself. Err – I mean love.

I guess I am little confused about why we are not taught these things in most churches. Think about it, we can preach salvation every week - in many cases to those that are already saved. We teach coping skills and occasionally some helpful psycho-babble. We talk about tithing, serving, and getting involved in small-groups. We even hear of the love which Jonathan had for David. And yet, in 30+ years, I have never heard a sermon on something "like, make a friend, be a friend." Sure, I have been urged to engage in all kinds of "Christian" activities from servant evangelism to men's retreats and home-groups. Most of the time, if not all the time, is taken up with some sort of religious activity like praying, Bible study, discussion and worship. And fellowship. The super-religious start their sentences “Hi I am so-and-so, how long have you been saved?” There is little of the plain old hanging out where you just get to know someone. Think about 120 disciples in the upper room for 120 days? Is there anyone in your life that you have seen for 120 days straight other than someone from your immediate family?

But Brother David, those were special times. Jesus had just died, and they were afraid and uncertain what to do next—they didn’t even have the Holy Spirit yet -- they needed each other. Why don't you call those 42 folks from church that no one calls and find out if they are afraid and if they know what to do next – oh and are they full of the Holy Spirit? I think you'll be surprised. Vision and relationship comes out of spending time together. Time is the commodity of relationships.

Of course most modern citizens are busy with so many other things-- but did you know that the Bible says our love will eventually grow cold. Did you think that Satan was going to come and turn down a thermostat? I think we are simply going to be too darn busy to care what happens to those around us. It’s already affecting nearly half the church.

Maybe you need to call Home before you call someone else - there might be a message there…

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

God is Great, Beer is Good, and People are Crazy

There was a discussion on Facebook today about how some people think Christians are "whack jobs." Regardless, God is still great. I don't really know much about beer. I haven't had one in just about 30 years.

There are a lot of folks that consider themselves to be Christian. Some because they do good, and others because they have faith in God or are born again-- and others because they grew up in a Christian denomination. Far be it from me to decide who is in, and who is out. Some say we'll be surprised at who is going to be there, and others say who think they are in will be surprised when they are rejected at the Pearly Gates. Hmmm...

But let's say you are a real Christian who is feeling passionate about doing something for God. You know something beyond throwing a few bucks in the offering plate and trying to be a good person. The church calls it service or ministry, which could include such things as: reading scriptures on Sunday morning, planning a harvest party, serving communion, maybe going to the soup kitchen once a month, fostering neglected kids, or even a mission trip somewhere. Possibly you desire a job or position in the church as a pastor or worship leader, have a prophetic ministry, cast out demons, lead or host a small-groups, or do tent revivals. It's all service.

Today's blog simply asks the question, what is in your heart in terms of serving and how important is it? I know that's two questions-- I learned it from Jesus. When He was asked what the most important commandment was, he gave two answers in one sentence. Matthew 22:36-40.

The second question, "How important is it?" is the most important part. If it is not important, it is not likely to happen. The church is not a multi-level marketing scheme trying to get you fired up to find 10 that will find 10. If you are not going to love God with your whole heart, how then are you going to do something for Jesus that has any value? Just a thought.

Supposing that you do love Jesus, and it is important to serve Him some how, here is a great place to start planning for the big day. Try tithing your time-- giving 10% of your waking hours for service to the Lord. Of course that means that you need to budget your time for God (worship, prayer, fasting, study, and services), spouses, family and work-- which come first.

Did I mention that serving God takes some thought?

Luke 14: 28 Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

Now. supposing that you have thought about what it is going to cost to serve God in terms of time, money, and passion-- what's next? (I am not talking about how to be a disciple of Christ-- HERE's a blog on that.) That's right-- being a disciple will have its benefits. Disciples live in community with each other and learn how to be like Jesus, so when someone asks the question WWJD? Someone points at you.

Passion has brought you this far, and I am sure you're ready to get rolling. There are still a few more things to consider. What is your spiritual gifting? It is a good thing to know in case you come across a sinner in the rest room while you’re cleaning toilets or handing out bread in the food pantry. They might ask you for help or prayer. Can you preach a simple gospel explaining salvation or give a simple testimony? Can hear God's voice while praying or offer a godly word of encouragement? The other question that probably should be settled at some point in time is this, "What is your calling?" There has to be a godly purpose to your service. Service that simply fills needs, but is not of God, ends up burning people out. Service that comes from the heart of God is energizing.

We all need to get started and there are lots of jobs in the church. From parking cars, to leading missions and running God breathed programs, you can fit in and serve God. But beware, "job" based ministry makes it hard to get promoted. Titles, even harder.

I believe that true service comes from relationship. Get in a relationship with someone and go along with them to worship practice, to an outreach or some other place where they serve. Get to know folks in the midst of serving; your gifting and calling will probably emerge. This is the beginning of mentoring. If you are serving, train someone to do your job. You'll either get replaced or promoted, or you'll stay training and equipping; which is the heart of Ephesians 4.

Did I mention that obedience is better than sacrifice? It is. Just another thought.

When you sign up for service-- remember that you are not a volunteer, you are working for God and He expects your very best. So show up on time and work hard. Maybe you'll be like Gideon and have to go in the enemy's camp. Or you'll be like Moses and have to speak when you think you are not good at it. It is possible that you'll be like Zebedee brothers; possibly having to drop everything to follow Him-- you job, your friends, your house-- everything. Some times the cost of following Jesus is brokenness and trial.

Just a couple of more things - I mean you've read this far.

Mark 8:34-35 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it."

I know, that's one thing, not two. Or you could go back to tossing a couple of bucks in the plate and trying to be good. Just a thought.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Can You Believe It? - Why Do We Do This?

It seems that the larger my readership grows, the more I start to feel like I am out of my league. Thankfully conflict is not the absence of peace. I do propose to carry on.

Often times I am challenged by the questions and comments I receive-- especially on Facebook. Today, if you are a Bible believing Christian I want to challenge you. If something-- a cause-- is important to you, leave a comment and tell me why the Bible is in tune with your way of thinking. I usually do the thinking, but today it's your turn.

Before you start I want you to think about what it is like to love your neighbor as yourself. When is it OK to act like Jesus and turn over the table of the money changers? Are you forgiving? How many people have you seen give their life to Christ this week? How many folks have you brought to Christ? If the church is supposed to preach the gospel, how are they doing? What are we doing for the poor, the widows and those in jail? Are we there when someone we know moves to a new house?

Are we really doing what we see the Father doing? If not, what is it exactly that we are doing for God? Or are we just sitting around making notes on what everyone else should be doing?

Back up your stance on health care, green energy, welfare, traditional marriage, immigration, prayer in school or anything else with scripture. I am looking for Bible, not opinions. Be outrageous-- but be respectful.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Seeds of Division - Unifying the Church

For the church to be effective in carrying out the task of making disciples, it must come to some common ground, or we will not be unified.

In the first century there were Jewish and Gentile believers. Even those two distinct groups were divided into followers of the different apostles. There were those that followed Paul and those that followed Apollos. It almost seems division was inevitable.

1 Corinthians 1:12 What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas (Peter)"; still another, "I follow Christ." 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?

Paul certainly understood the problem with immature believers that would follow a man, not Christ himself. What about you? Are you following Christ or a man? How do you know?

You can usually separate these folks out when a pastor leaves and a new one comes. Some try to follow the pastor to his new position, and others leave because they don't like the new one. It may be human nature, but is sure ain't God. You are either in the church that He wants you in, or not. I am not buying that "God connected me with a man" argument. It is possible that one will be sent out to plant another church as a teammate, but that is not what I am talking about.

This morning I heard a speaker as he told a story about the revival that came to Seattle in the mid to late '90s. It was powerful enough to bring together, in one service, a Foursquare, a Pentecostal and an Independent church under one roof for shared meetings. You see the manifest presence of God is greater then all the theologians you can fit on a turnip wagon.

If you research revival at all, you'll find that just about every denomination has had a Charismatic/Pentecostal revival. These revivals included signs and wonders along with the use of the spiritual gifts -- you know -- tongues, prophecy and healing to name a few. These outpourings of God come for a season, and for some reason seem to fade away until the next one. Seasons, God's sovereignty, the flesh-- who knows exactly why they seem to end. Amazingly, when the next one comes along, it is a little different, and little bit the same as the last.

In revivals, from the earliest recorded ones around the time of St. Patrick, to the most recent ones in Lakeville, Toronto and Brownsville (Pensacola) Florida- the person of the Holy Spirit manifests in a mighty way to point to the truths of Jesus resurrected. Each time we get a deeper understanding of God, His character, and His utter inability to be kept in one denomination.

It is these times of revival that seem to unify the global church. I think that it is amazing, and little funny to see Charismatics in the Catholic and Episcopalian churches along with a truck load of other protestant and liturgical denominations. Doctrines other than the ones of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ don't make a lot of headlines during these times. Oh sure, the dispensationalists come out in force like a corporate team of lawyers for Jesus-- and the spirit of the Pharisees lives on. [A reader pointed out this fact - Revivals cause division-- separating those that are hungriest for God from those that are not. That is what I meant to say.]

So how is it that we will become unified? Some think that it will take a major move of the Holy Spirit with pulpit splitting power and weeping repentance (Read the God Chasers). That might happen. It is not going to be because we are more tolerant and flexible in our interpretation of the Word of God; He never changes. It is doubtful intellectuals ever brought revival by sheer brain power - in fact they may have staved if off a few times. :o) [A reader brought to my attention that John Edwards attended Yale at age 13 and was Valedictorian at 17.]

I think it is going to be more like a Field of Dreams. If we build it, He will come. I am not talking about a building-- but a temple-- a spiritual organism that can breath with the Holy Spirit as He blows where He wills.

What are we to build that will unify us as a true religion- for lack of a better word? First we are going to need a fresh revelation, then become equipped for the work of the kingdom, and then, maybe then, God will come in a mighty way sending us to the harvest fields, not as infants, but as mighty men and woman of God complete with a diversity of spiritual gifts and weapons which are not carnal; the warrior bride. [The seeds of revival being humility and repentance 2 Chronicles 7:14 - also pointed out by a reader. Although I am quite aware of these dimensions-- I assumed that you, the reader already understood that pride is not a vehicle for anything in the church but disaster.]

Ephesians 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Silencing the Debate - Intellectual Elitism

In America, here in the land of the free, there is trouble. This morning I heard Jim Gilchrist of the Minuteman Project was scheduled to speak at an immigration conference at Harvard University. However; he's now been disinvited. Isn't this the same school that Beer Summit rock-star, Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a professor? Isn't this the same Harvard that invited past president Jimmy Carter to speak-- well, with certain questions off limits?

The event organizers, the Harvard Undergraduate Legal Committee have an official statement.

"Mr. Gilchrist’s participation in the conference on the behalf of the Minutemen Project was not compatible with providing an environment for civil, educational, and productive discourse on immigration, and we cannot host him at this time."

Have we gone PC Mad? We have important issues in our country that need to be discussed. And there is a view, right or wrong, that shouldn't be part of a debate to train lawyers? That's objective education? And aren't these the same Ivy League types that invited Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia for cultural purposes were he lied about his country and their treatment of their citizens?

As an American, doesn't this "fear of opposing views" bother you? It is the same type of prejudice that has been visited on Christians here in the USA since the 1960's -- when prayer was removed from school. We can clearly see the unfortunate ugliness of the decision which has culminated in the present darkness.

What I find even more amazing is that Harvard University has a searchable database online and the term "god" appears 87,283 times in their founding documents and narrative history. It is filled with phrases like "God and King" and "fear of God." What the hell happened?

I have written about the Christian responsibility to write our representatives. I believe that they need to know, now is the time to represent us-- not some small percentage of the population that has no regard for other points of view-- not just Christian views - but any opposing view.

A few weeks ago I wrote my state representatives about a bill to protect the free speech of Christian school children to express their religion. Did you know some schools will allow kids to wear shirts with the "F" word on them, but not the "J' word? I received a handful of responses for my efforts. One said, "thanks for writing, David, I support this bill. Another said, "This is an important issue to protect the rights of all to express their religion in school." And finally, one said this, " David, Thank you for writing me about his bill, after researching it, I have decided to support free speech for school age citizens. Take care."

Church, we have a ministry to those that do not have faith. We are to pursue righteousness and be an example to our children and those around us. Regardless of how things turn out in the government, we are to keep the faith and continue to support the truth. Daniel did! Without seeing the worldview of others, how can we be a compassionate witness for the Lord in a way that is personal? How can we be loving without fitting into the world's mold of tolerance?

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Most Annoying Phrases -- Verbal Fatigue

I heard about a poll on the radio in which 900 Americans were asked what phrases most annoyed them. Well here is the most recent list of terms. 47% responded that "whatever" is by far the worst of the bunch. Among the other cringe-worthy phrases were "you know" (25% of the votes), "it is what it is" (11%), "anyway" (7%) and "at the end of the day" (2%). I would have added "like" -- it must be the teens and 20-somethings in my life.

But there have been many other idioms and idiomatic expressions over the years, all of them causing verbal fatigue -- "really," "absolutely," "no problem" (thank you), "," at this moment in time" (I am going to change my mind at some other point in time), "with all due respect" (I think your a total idiot)," "to be honest with you," "24/7," and "it’s not rocket science." Actually, I prefer it's not rocket surgery.

The Bible says words have power, and that is just a sample. ;o] Today, I am going to take a "one man poll"-- after all, isn't that what a blog is? I have decided to list the phrases and words that are most annoying to me in politics and church -- and define them. Certainly you can agree, the following are way over used.

-1 Change - the word used to mean something tangible, something that we could be certain of. For example, the weather will change.

-2 Poll - This is a statistical analysis of how full of bologna you are in front of the teleprompter.

-3 Bi-Partisan - Let me translate this-- we aren't talking to you if you're on the other side.

-4 Ethics Reform - This really means that someone is going down for corruption, and this time they are on the other team.

-5 Deficit - Another word for bipartisan spending.

Runners up:
Yes we can - It means that we don't have to do anything, but win. The new status quo.

A teachable moment - Basically means that what you did doesn't agree with my agenda. However; conflict which I can control is good.

Race card - I don't have any compelling insight to win the debate, so instead of losing I will redirect by talking about something that is of little importance.

Then there are the most annoying phrases you hear in church.

-1 I'll call you - (when Hell freezes over) this word is most often heard in church lobbies the closer you get to the coffee pot. Akin to "we should get together." Sure, in the next life.

-2 I'll pray for you - this really means "I don't have time to listen to your sob story." (I have a T- time in 20 minutes.)

-3 Brother/Sister, the Lord sent me here to tell you .... -That’s odd, I was just talking to the Lord and He didn't mention that you were on your way.

-4 Revival is coming - Right, and until then we're going to do nothing for the poor, the widows, the sick, the oppressed or those standing right here in the lobby.

-5 Jesus loves you - overused perhaps, but not "meant" enough.

Monday, October 12, 2009

How Christian are You? - Being a True Holy Roller

As a blogger of faith and occasionally politics, I get challenged on my beliefs, my faith and my positions on the popular issues. There are some very intelligent people out there who have done their research-- they scare me. I am just an average Joe, sitting here this morning enjoying the foliage out my New England window, as I eat baby Goudas and sip Colombian coffee. I honestly can't compete with intellectuals- and I don't really care too. Go read the Huffington Post or Politico of some blog where the writer has 10 degrees from your favorite university.

Today I want to challenge your faith when it come to the miraculous. Why? Because God is not just waiting to bless you and those around you when you get to heaven. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is AT HAND!

It seems odd to me that Bible believing Christians get a little widgy when a manifestation of the Holy Spirit doesn't seem to have an exact match in the Bible. Things like healing eyes with dirt and spittle might seem a little out of place in today's manicured American churches. Why is that? It's in the Bible. Please don't give me some prepared answer you heard from a sermon 20 years ago. Show me exactly why your Bible doesn't allow Jesus to use you, or somebody like you, as a vessel of healing using mud made with spittle?

Even if we are on the same page when it comes to manifestations that match those in the word, but what about those that are not? Are we to assume that manifestations that happen at Bible believing churches, which cannot be found in the Word, are of the devil?

John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

I'd be interested what those things that Jesus did might be? Is the Bible just a collection of His "greatest hits"? Were these things edited out because they were not important, or because our gospel authors found the miraculous common place, and were more concerned about theology, faith and character?

I suppose we could toss Bible verses at this sort of stuff all day-- for me, I had to go check it out, be discerning, and make some decisions about what was God and what was not. If we have really read our Bible, prayed in faith, heard God's still small voice, then being deceived is going to be pretty tough. Don't you think? However; if we are relying on the faith of a pastor, a denominational statement we may never have read, a friend, or pamphlet we devoured years ago when we got saved, we are likely to get into trouble.

One of the spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians is discernment. Do you have it, or know someone that does? Personally, my experience is, that I just don' t seem much of the gift of discernment operating in the church today. And no, I don't know why.

As a missionary in Brazil I saw some very intense demonic manifestations-- most Christians I know, have never seen such a thing. But let me tell, you they have opinions about it. I saw more healing in one meeting in a little church called Luz de Mundo in one hour, than I had experienced in the American church in my entire life! Was I deceived when someone that I prayed for with the help of a teammate got out of wheelchair and walked? What about the woman that had ankle braces for her entire life-- almost 60 years -- starting running around the sanctuary shouting "Gloria Deus!" Was she deceived?

I have also been to enough meetings where people have a religious style that is not God. I have heard false tongues and cast out demons. Some of it looks like some of the real "God" things I have experienced other places, but something just isn't right. Only the Spirit of God can discern this, the video tapes look the same.

In the end, we need Jesus, and so many times I've been stretched as a passionate follower. We need to be desperate to hear His voice, and see His glory. How that manifests is up to Him. Every notable revival has had some sort of manifestations of the Holy Spirit-- the term Holy Roller came from Christians that were overcome with laughter and rolled on the floor-- oh, and they were serious about repentance, salvation, and the power of Jesus. They are now called the Nazarenes. By the way, the Southern Baptists once had followers that spoke in tongues. Hmm...

You can challenge me, or you can challenge God. I suggest Him, what does knowing more then some average believer gain you?

Here are some blogs that I wrote over the years about this wonderful Jesus and His power to save, to heal and to minister to His creation.

The healing of a woman with a bad back.

A word of knowledge.

My own experience in the supernatural.

Do you really need a miracle?

Some demonic stories.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Paul's Resume - What it Takes to Know Your Stuff

Paul of Tarsus
1 Prison Way
Rome, Italy
Phone: 800-CAUGHT-UP
Website : JewsforJesus.god (see the live prison cam)

Skills:
  • Intellectual
  • Deep Thinking
  • Orator
  • Revelatory

Work History:
  • Tent-maker/Apostle of the Lord
  • More Journeys 63-67 AD
  • Imprisonment in Rome 61-63 AD
  • Voyage to Rome 60-61 AD
  • Imprisonment in Judea 58-60 AD
  • Third Journey 54-58 AD
  • Second Journey 51-53 AD
  • First Journey 45-47 AD
  • Damascus 37-40 AD
Published Works:
  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

Education:
Synagogue at Jerusalem
Areas of Study: Jewish Scriptures and Pharisaic traditions

Foreign Languages:
Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin

Previous Addresses:
Colosse, Spain, Corinth, Miletus, Troas, Crete, Nicopolis, Philippi, Italy, Judea, Ephesus, and Macedonia

Arrest Record:
  • Jerusalem
  • Rome
  • Ephesis
  • Philippi

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize - What's It Really About?

This morning I woke up to the news that Barrack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Growing up, this prize always seemed to be revered in my household as given to the brightest, and most world changing individuals. These ladies and gentleman were distinguished because of the work that they have done to benefit mankind. Of course my mother studied political science, among other things, at Yale University. She was liberal. Regardless of her political views, she treated this award with the highest esteem, and so have I until the last few years.

The history of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Laureates that have won it, is rich. What is the Nobel Peace Prize really? It is an award for peace - and anti-war. However; one reader put it this way, "It is fodder for the right-wing talk show hosts."

According to http://www.nobelprize.org, this is how the Prize came into existence.

""On 27 November 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, giving the largest share of his fortune to a series of prizes, the Nobel Prizes. As described in Nobel's will, one part was dedicated to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".""

There are some more facts about the Nobel Peace Prize HERE.

I would have thought Mahatma Gandhi would have been a winner, but he was assassinated before it could be given out -- they don't award them to dead people - one of the rules.

As a Christian, one would think that a "peace prize" should be given to any folks that create peace. After all, the Bible says that we should live peaceful lives, feed the poor, take care of the widows and preach the gospel-- nothing violent about that. As far as I know, there is no violent religion (god believing) except some factions of Islam. Even Islam is mostly a peaceful religion. Oh, and don't forget the Crusades- as Christians we own that one.

There have been many religious leaders have had an effect on world peace; many of them Christian. In my life time, as a child of the Cold War era, there was nothing more joyous then the fall of the Berlin Wall. This is attributed to both Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan. Regardless of your political views, both men contributed to the fall of the wall, calling for an end of the Cold War in 1989. That was the year the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) won the prize. (Mikhail Gorbachev also received one.) This is the same fellow, that in 1951, was pressured by the Chinese military to ratify a seventeen-point agreement which permitted the People's Republic of China to take control of Tibet. I am sorry, I find the fact that he did that a little cowardly-- am I missing something?

Another one of the rules of nomination is that the world waits 50 years to find out who the nominees are-- so it won't be easy to tell who Barrack Obama ran against-- I doubt it was William Ayres of the Weather Underground - but I could be wrong. Here are a couple of characters that were nominated over the decades.

Joseph Stalin, the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922-1953), was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1945 and 1948 for his efforts to end World War II.

Adolf Hitler, was nominated once in 1939 by E.G.C. Brandt, member of the Swedish parliament. Brandt changed his mind, however, and the nomination was withdrawn in a letter dated 1 February 1939.

Has the Nobel Peace Prize lost any appeal yet? Well, here is one more likely nominee that didn't get the prize. Her name is Irena Sendlerowa. You may have heard her story via email-- I have received it a few times. I checked it out on Snopes, and it is marked “true”. She is the inspiration behind 1993 film, Schindler's List.

Snopes.com had this to say: A Los Angeles Times obituary for Irena described how Irena, a social worker, passed herself off as a nurse to sneak supplies and aid into (and children out of) the Warsaw Ghetto, and the punishment she endured when she was finally caught by the Nazis: She studied at Warsaw University and was a social worker in Warsaw when the German occupation of Poland began in 1939.

In 1940, after the Nazis herded Jews into the ghetto and built a wall separating it from the rest of the city, disease, especially typhoid, ran rampant. Social workers were not allowed inside the ghetto, but Sendler, imagining "the horror of life behind the walls," obtained fake identification and passed herself off as a nurse, allowed to bring in food, clothes and medicine.


By 1942, when the deadly intentions of the Nazis had become clear, Sendler joined a Polish underground organization, Zegota. She recruited 10 close friends -- a group that would eventually grow to 25, all but one of them women -- and began rescuing Jewish children.


She and her friends smuggled the children out in boxes, suitcases, sacks and coffins, sedating babies to quiet their cries. Some were spirited away through a network of basements and secret passages. Operations were timed to the second. One of Sendler's children told of waiting by a gate in darkness as a German soldier patrolled nearby. When the soldier passed, the boy counted to 30, then made a mad dash to the middle of the street, where a manhole cover opened and he was taken down into the sewers and eventually to safety.

Most of the children who left with Sendler's group were taken into Roman Catholic convents, orphanages and homes and given non-Jewish aliases. Sendler recorded their true names on thin rolls of paper in the hope that she could reunite them with their families later. She preserved the precious scraps in jars and buried them in a friend's garden.

In 1943, she was captured by the Nazis and tortured but refused to tell her captors who her co-conspirators were or where the bottles were buried. She also resisted in other ways. According to Felt, when Sendler worked in the prison laundry, she and her co-workers made holes in the German soldiers' underwear. When the officers discovered what they had done, they lined up all the women and shot every other one. It was just one of many close calls for Sendler.

During one particularly brutal torture session, her captors broke her feet and legs, and she passed out. When she awoke, a Gestapo officer told her he had accepted a bribe from her comrades in the resistance to help her escape. The officer added her name to a list of executed prisoners. Sendler went into hiding but continued her rescue efforts.
Felt said that Sendler had begun her rescue operation before she joined the organized resistance and helped a number of adults escape, including the man she later married. "We think she saved about -- 500 people -- before she joined Zegota," Felt said, which would mean that Sendler ultimately helped rescue about 3,000 Polish Jews.

When the war ended, Sendler unearthed the jars and began trying to return the children to their families. For the vast majority, there was no family left. Many of the children were adopted by Polish families; others were sent to Israel.

She lost to Al Gore, promoter of the Global Warming farce in 2007.

I just don't have the energy to write about the prizes Yasir Arafat and Jimmy Carter received.

In the end, I think the award, for a president that has two wars on his hands, and potentially two or three more conflicts in the wings,-- well, it i just a bit too early to see if he'll give peace a chance. I believe the peace prize should be for peace, not rumors of peace.

As a Christian, I think that men should be rewarded for what they do, not what they say they are going to do. To use a well know verse, "talk is cheap." ;o)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Some Pages Are Missing From My Bible!

You call yourself a Christian, have a Jesus "fish" on your car, and some days you see the problems of the world as a sign that He is coming soon. You're all set.

As a long time Christian with some seasons of backsliding, I thought I was getting closer to the goal of putting on the mind of Christ. I suppose some day I will learn to wave with all my fingers when someone cuts me off on the Mass Pike. Until then, I am just a sinner saved by grace. This amazing grace is not a license to be a jerk-- but it sure does come in handy when you are one. Amen?

In the last week or so, I have been really studying the lives of some of the apostles. You can poke through the last few posts for more on that if you like. In the process, I also had a discussion about the 5-fold ministry on Facebook, and some folks had a fiery debate over gay marriage. It was an aside to a link I posted for a petition to vote for a new law protecting student's rights to do "religious" stuff in school - like pray.

In each case, I had to rely on what I know about the Bible to "appraise all things." I am in no way in judgment of the people involved. The situations happen to be clearly addressed in the Bible-- which says something different. The word of God, even when it is not so clear, God is able to make it shine. You see there is a verse that gets improperly interpreted by those that the Word of God opposes. We aren't to judge others, period! Yet, very often, we are told not to judge anything. Just believe what you believe, and be tolerant. This is not a Biblical imperative. Let's take a look.

1 Corinthians 2:13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.

In trying to appraise "all things" we need to know the word of God and have put on the mind of Christ. This is not akin to getting a degree at the cemetery -- err I mean seminary. It is reading and understanding the word by His spirit.

In this blog I often challenge what some call, "traditional thinking," or religiousness. The truth is that I challenge watered down Bible interpretation, which is not truth. These half-truths are sometimes promoted by uneducated, albeit; well meaning Christians, denominations, and pop cultures "vignettes," of a wise savior. There are a lot of sayings that sound like the Bible, but they are not. There are some portions of scripture that need to be interpreted in a prophetic sense-- a lot of Revelation and the Old Testament Prophets are like that. Weeding your way though can be tough, but it is worth it. There are other parts that are literal, some historical, and some, well, like treasure when God illuminates them. Sometimes it is helpful to look into the Greek or Hebrew-- other times it helpful to understand the historical context. Most importantly it is important to learn to hear God's voice. Christianity is a relationship with God!

And for some, it's just another book--

The problem then becomes speaking Bible - or better yet, "speaking the truth in love." The Word is confrontational to sin, and sinful behavior. It always will be! The rules and laws in the pages of the Bible simply point out our need for a savior. Everyone likes the "love" part-- some like the "vengeance" part, and rarely does anyone like the "discipline" part. But loving your enemies, and those that are not like you becomes a much more difficult task then loving folks you already get a long with.

Many try to make a case for their favorite sin by asking "What would Jesus do?", or Jesus loves every one (He does) and therefore you can't oppose my interpretation of the Bible, causing conflict, and well-- making me mad. It is simply rationalization cloaked in Bible. That doesn't make it true.

I have been a member of a few denominations in the 30+ years since I became saved. These include Episcopal, Southern Baptist, Pentecostal, Vineyard Christian Fellowships and a couple of non-denominational churches as well. Here is what I learned from those experiences-- A) People are people, B) God is God, C) You aren't God, D) Jesus is wonderful and E) Each denomination has decided which portion of the Bible is important, thereby causing other parts to be much less important; or in the worst cases non-existent-- as if there were pages missing from the Bible. Amazingly, John 3:16-17 is in every Bible translation I have ever read, same with Romans 10:9-10, Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 12:1-13, and Ephesians 4:11-25; just to mention a few. In each case, I think they are pretty clear in both Greek/Hebrew, English, Portuguese, French and Spanish.

As Christians, we must accept the full gospel message, or we are hypocrites. If we forbid speaking in tongues or deny that there are New Testament apostles, we oppose God. Read the BOOK! You can't do enough intellectual gymnastics to prove something like this is in error. If we find a loophole for our personal sin through some rationalization or lofty intellectual argument, we are still hypocrites. In the final analysis, sin is sin.

Be sure, diversity in the church is meant to be in gifting and callings -- even cultures, but not in theology!!! There is only one theology that God has ordained, and it is your job to study the word, and search it out like treasure - for there you will find the knowledge of God. You won't know everything, but you won't have to rely on some preacher to put on your spiritual diaper every Sunday.

Certainly each one of us grows in the knowledge of God at our own pace. We walk our own path, and carry our own cross - it is between us and God. If you have been a Christian for some time, and find parts of the Bible foreign to your thinking, it's time to pick up the Bible and read it. One summer I just read the Bible and hi-lighted all the parts that I thought I understood. Some days I flip back over it and see the gaps in my understanding from that year-- the good news, some of them have been filled in since 1993.

Here is my challenge-- if your denomination or preacher is telling you that certain parts of the Bible do not pertain to you today - go read them anyway. If your Sunday experience is only reading the verses up on the projection screen, read the chapters before and after and look at the context. If that bores you, read the study notes, or follow the chain in your Thompson Chain Bible without reading the text of your favorite books of the Bible. It is time to read out-of-the-box. Do a word study, play Bible roulette - but learn it for yourself.

Sure, there are many interpretations of the thousands of Bible passages, but only one of them is right. Well, some are prophetic, at the same time they are historical. God uses things both in and out of context - that is why it is foolishness to the wise.

Think about it, are you following Jesus, or a denomination-- maybe even a man?

Matthew 7:22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!

And finally, if you haven't read the Bible, then shut up about your appraisals, OK?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Thomas' Resume - The Misconception of Doubt

One of the comments from my last blog, made me want to have a little fun with Thomas' resume. Thomas also has quite a Biblical history which I rarely hear abut save the doubting Thomas sermon every so often. How about you, are you like Thomas?

Thomas (The Twin)
120 Upper Room
Jerusalem, Israel
ImTheOlderOne@His.net
5LO-AVES-2FISH

SKILLS:
- Logical
- Rational
- Relational
- Thoughtful
- Bilingual

EMPLOYMENT:
Worked with Messiah suggesting boldly that we die with Him. 3BC - 0 AD
Student 20 BC - 3 BC

EXPERIENCE:
- Fed 5,000 men and their families with a few fish and a couple of loaves of bread. (Wasn't my idea.)
- Witnessed Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus.
- Saw the demons cause the pigs to run into the sea.
- Sailed the Sea of Galilee
- Saw Peter walk on the water
- Amazed that Jesus could sleep in the midst of a storm.
- Jealous of my brother who believed when I didn't.

EDUCATION: Basic Hebrew

OBJECTIVE: Seeks apostolic position.

Thomas - most often called doubting Thomas, had an intimate history with Jesus. He was there for the events of His ministry from the water turned to wine, to the moment Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father. Many times we Christians revere the experiences of the apostles, which were amazing, as some sort supernatural hyperbole. It is easy to forget these three simple facts about the recorded Word of God:

1) These events took place over a human lifetime, not in a week or a year. Certainly things intensified during the three years of Jesus' ministry here on earth, yet, a gospel which can be read in hours, seems to condense the time-frame. Add to that the book of Acts which could possibly have taken twenty or more years to unfold, and you see what I am getting at.

2) The disciples turned apostles did not have the benefit of the baptism of the Holy Spirit which came on Pentecost AFTER Jesus died and ascended to heaven. The indwelling spirit, the comforter, teacher, and bringer of revelation, was not available to Thomas and the rest at the time of Thomas's doubt-- even as it later was to Paul! No wonder Paul had such great revelation- he was the model of the "life in the spirit" which Jesus said would come.

3) We are no different in a human sense, then those described in the Gospels, but we have the Holy Spirit-- which actually gives us an advantage.

You can read more about that process HERE.

Back to Thomas. He saw Lazarus raised from the dead, and I am sure he was familiar with the following event at the moment Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all mankind.

Matthew 27:50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. 52 The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.

Thomas understood Jesus' mission on earth well enough to be bold in saying, "Let us also go, that we may die with him [Jesus]." (John 11:16) Our friend the "twin," however; misunderstood the Kingdom, along with Phillip and the others, wherein that He didn't comprehend who Jesus really was (John 14). Actually, it was only Peter that really understood that Jesus was the Messiah - Messiah! No on seemed to understand that He was 100% man, and 100% God.

For those of you that have believed, and in some cases a long time, that Thomas doubted, what do you suppose it was that he actually doubted? This "raised from the dead" concept was demonstrated more than once for Thomas, and at least one time in his very presence. The answer is the resurrection.

Being raised from the dead is a parlor trick compared to the resurrection of the Messiah. Without the resurrection, there is no Christianity. Everyone that Thomas saw raised from the dead, died again to become dust! Not Jesus! What Thomas did not get, and so many religious Christians also miss, is that Jesus is not only raised from the dead, but that the resurrection is the power to beat death for eternity. He didn't understand that Jesus was God - the I Am, the author and finisher of his faith. The Messiah was to be a savior, but not one of possessions, but one of souls. Jesus' defeat of death was to be eternal, not temporal.

The gospel message is that Jesus is alive, and involved with His creation inviting them to build His eternal Kingdom. That requires a resurrected savior- not someone raised from the dead that will die again!

Thomas, like so many other Christians today, did not know how to partner with a living, supernatural and eternal God. The fact that Jesus was raised from the dead was just the beginning of an eternal kingdom, an age where God would speak through His Holy Spirit, and empower His church-- not just in Scripture and religious ceremony, but by relationship and communion with he Holy Spirit.

With Jesus simply raised from the dead, Thomas only believed that He would die again-- but once He experienced the resurrected Jesus, could he could be certain of His eternal promises.

How about you?

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Work of the Ministry - My Boss is a Jewish Carpenter

Christians are an interesting group of folks. When they think of ministry, they are more likely to think of it as an occupation or vocation -- plumber, pastor, or car thief. As believers we often assume that because many ministers go to school for a masters degree in divinity - M-Div in the business, that they have lots of answers for us in negotiating the treacherously narrow path known as the will of God. This is not always the case.

In truth, when we look at the early church, we do not see this type of education in any of the apostles but Paul. As a Pharisee he was the only one that was formally educated in the scriptures. I doubt that he took homiletics, pastoral counseling or classes on exegetic principals. And like any human, before he had an experience with a living God, he was legalistic about the Scriptures even using them to decree death - sound familiar? After the experience on the road to Damascus, Paul became revelatory - the latter being of God. The scriptures could not be interpreted intellecually - and they still can't!

The modern pastor often is expected to be a CEO of sorts, an administrator, preacher and teacher; peacemaker, toilet cleaner and a host of other things for a salary that is often below what others without a master degree make.

The ministry is supposed to be about the calling, not the money, yet we treat our leaders like the HR department in a large corporation. We measure their education, their experience and their references against what? Then we let them come preach a few sermons and accept or reject their application. Again, based on what?

I often wonder what a pastoral search committee would do with a resume like Peter’.

Peter the Fisherman - Jerusalem, Israel
sheepfeeder@His.net - 555- DIE-4GOD

SKILLS: Fishing, net tying, big mouth, liar and coward

EMPLOYMENT:
Worked with Messiah 3BC - 0 AD
Fisherman 20 BC - 3 BC

EDUCATION: Basic Hebrew

OBJECTIVE: Seeks pastoral position.

I have seen this countless times in the churches around the globe. Churches get tangled up in voting, personal agendas, religiousness, and denominational infighting. I know that it doesn't happen everywhere, but I bet you know a place where it has.

I read another blog that says that we shouldn't identify ourselves with or gifting - you know, Pastor So-And-So, Teacher Know-It-All and Toilet Cleaner Dave. These titles only encourage egos. And they easily can.

I read another blog that quoted this verse:

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, Ephesians 4:10-13 NKJ

-- suggesting that we have pastors, teachers and evangelists, apostolic and prophetic folks. Hmmm... 3 nouns and two adjectives. What?

And of course there is the endless gift list starting in Romans 12, flying through 1 Corinthians 12 and screeching to halt in Ephesians 4:11; lumping them all together as if gifting and calling are the same.

You need to answer these questions for yourself. What am I gifted in, and what am I called to do? And more importantly, can God use me right now, right here, for His purpose?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

30 Minutes Until --

Today at lunch I was thinking about the headlines I heard on WBZ radio as I shuffled my feet from gas, to clutch, to brake, and back again for nearly an hour in rush hour traffic.

Our governor decided to stand behind some laid off union workers at the Hyatt in Boston - says he's going to boycott Hyatt - funny he didn't speak up when I lost my job to someone in India. Union - oh yeah, that's right, unable to make concessions in a tough economy-- let's punish the business that is employing 190 Americans. Another was the clatter over Obama going to Copenhagen - who cares really? Send Polanski to jail for life - please!

Then there was the Tsunami in the Samoas. Amazing, and without warning four 50 foot waves smashed into the beaches of the South Pacific Islands. Hundreds died - their last moments on earth. I wonder what they were thinking 30 minutes before it happened?

Matthew 25:5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6"At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' 7"Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.' 9" 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.' 10"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

You just don't know what will happen - and yet we worry about everything as if we'll live forever. It is interesting how humans are. Then I thought about what I have faith in - what if I don't make it home today? Do I really believe what I preach? Then I meditated on His glory and His presence descended. With moments like that, it is hard to stay here on earth. Sure, I have relationships that I value with my wife and kids, but His glory is so very peaceful that some days I don't feel like engaging the struggle.

How about you - what if it was all over in 30 minutes? Would you think about your eternity, or what you've left behind?

Jesus, He defeated death, and by faith so will you. Think about it.

I gave myself 30 minutes to write this blog - I have 6 minutes left.
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